Everything you need to know about Shawarma

Shawarma is a popular street food throughout the Arab world and the Greater Middle East.

You might have heard of, or even tried shawarma, but do you know everything there is to know about shawarma?

Shawarma is a Middle Eastern dish that originated in the Levant region of the Arab world during the Ottoman Empire, consisting of meat that is cut into thin slices, stacked in an inverted cone, and roasted on a slow-turning vertical spit.

Traditionally made with lamb or mutton, it may also be made with chicken, turkey beef, or veal. The surface of the rotisserie meat is routinely shaved off once it cooks and is ready to be served.

Shawarma is a popular street food throughout the Arab world and the Greater Middle East.

The name shawarmā in Arabic is a rendering of the term çevirme in Ottoman Turkish, referring to rotisserie.


Although the roasting of meat on horizontal spits has an ancient history, the shawarma technique—grilling a vertical stack of meat slices and cutting it off as it cooks—first appeared in the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century in the form of döner kebab which both the Greek gyros and the Levantine shawarma are derived from

Shawarma, in turn, led to the development during the early 20th century of the contemporary Mexican dish tacos al pastor when it was brought there by Lebanese immigrants. The dish is also especially popular in Ottawa, Ontario, where a large community of the Lebanese diaspora exists.

Everything you need to know about Shawarma


Shawarma is prepared from thin cuts of seasoned and marinated lamb, mutton, veal, beef, chicken, or turkey. The slices are stacked on a skewer about 60 cm (20 in) high. Pieces of fat may be added to the stack to provide extra juiciness and flavour.

A motorized spit slowly turns the stack of meat in front of an electric or gas-fired heating element, continuously roasting the outer layer. Shavings are cut off the rotating stack for serving, customarily with a long, flat knife.

Spices may include cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric or paprika, and in some areas baharat. Shawarma is commonly served as a sandwich or wrap, in a flatbread such as pita or laffa. In the Middle East, chicken shawarma is typically served with garlic sauce, fries, and pickles. The garlic sauce served with the sandwich depends on the meat. Toum or toumie sauce is made from garlic, vegetable oil, lemon, and egg white or starch, and is usually served with chicken shawarma. Tarator sauce is made from garlic, tahini sauce, lemon, and water, and is served with beef shawarma.

In Israel, most shawarma is made with dark-meat turkey, commonly served with tahina sauce instead of Yogurt for kashrut reasons. It is often garnished with diced tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, pickled vegetables, hummus, tahina sauce, sumac, or amba mango sauce. Some restaurants offer additional toppings, including grilled peppers, eggplant, or French fries.

In Armenia and Georgia, shawarma is traditionally made with thin cuts of marinated meat which is left marinating overnight in spices such as coriander, cumin, cardamom, paprika, garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil.

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